The Monastery was built by the Chiaramonte family, one of the most powerful noble families in Sicily in the late 13th century, and it is one of the most precious historical sites in the old town centre of Agrigento. Walking through the main entrance, an open-air corridor conducts the visitor into the cloister with an enchanting garden. In the silence of this magical garden you can admire the facade of the Capitular Room with its elegant double lancet windows and pointed arch portal, the chapel with its original architectural details and the refectory. The architectural style of the superb arches of the Monastery is called “Chiaramontine” and embraces the artistic styles adopted by the Normans and Swabians: the zigzag patterns called battôns brisés and the columns decorated with flowers and leaves are typically Norman decorations whereas the austere pointed arch is Gothic-Swabian.
The Chiaramonte family was a noble Norman family linked to the Swabians by the marriage between Henry VI (son of Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa) and Constance de Hauteville (daughter of King Roger II of Sicily). Their son was Frederick II, known as ‘stupor mundi’ because of his qualities as a mediator between the many different races and religions present on Sicily, a wise administrator and an avid patron of science and the arts. Perhaps it was through this original architectural style which bears the name of the family that the Chiaramonti wished to perpetrate the values of the Norman-Swabian dynasty which they represented. The dormitories and some frescoed rooms are located on the first floor, where pottery and other archaeological treasures of all periods are exhibited.
A magnificent 15th century wooden crucifix is displayed in the tower or “Sala della Badessa”. On the last floor there is a special ethno-anthropological exhibition of objects and appliances used in daily life in 19th century Sicily. While wandering through these fascinating spaces, you might catch a whim of tantalizing, sweet scents: nowadays a reserved area of the monastery is still inhabited by nuns of the Cistercian order who alternate their prayers with the preparation of almond- and pistachio treats and rare sweet couscous. Especially the latter is a unique delicacy made of pistachio nuts, almonds, candied fruits and spices and based on a secret antique recipe which has been handed down from generation to generation by the nuns of the monastery.
The Municipal Museum of Agrigento is located in a wing of the Monastery of Santo Spirito and can be accessed through the Cloister garden.
Open in the morning: from Monday to Friday, 9.00 a.m. – 1.00 p.m.
Open in the afternoon: Tuesday and Friday, 3.00 p.m.- 6.30 p.m.
Ticket Monastery of Santo Spirito: €4 per person
Monastery of Santo Spirito: contact for further information or to book visits at different times
Monastero di Santo Spirito, Piazza Santo Spirito, 9 – 92100 Agrigento
The following coordinates indicate the point of interest
N 37° 18' 40.54''
E 13° 35' 0.82''